Camping, hiking, fishing, boating, and forested scenery filled with waterfalls is what you’d expect to find in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. And while there is certainly deer and other wildlife in the woods, you probably won’t find two-dozen or more black bears all in one spot. That is unless you visit the Oswald Bear Ranch, home to rescued bears of all ages. The grounds are not like a zoo or a drive-thru. Instead of being trapped in small cages, the bears have acres to roam and visitors can walk the fenced perimeters of their huge habitats (1/2, 1/3, and 1/4 mile each) and watch the Ursus americanus playing, climbing trees, swimming, snoozing, and even having bear brawls. Cubs are separated from the older 400-pound big boys for obvious reasons.
All of the bears that live here, including orphaned or abandoned cubs, have been rescued, not bought or bred. And all the bears stay for life. They have come to the ranch via multiple states’ Departments of Natural Resources — Michigan, Wisconsin, New York, Kentucky and Indiana among them. Sometimes grown bears are rescued from an abusive owner. Proprietors Dean and Jewel Oswald started their ranch in 1984, and opened it to the public in 1997. The animals are cared for through private funds and donations.
Thick high fencing encloses the bear habitats, so for unobstructed photos, climb the elevated platform by the yearling bears. Toss in an apple slice or two and watch what happens! For a unique souvenir, get your photo taken with a cute cub. There’s no cuddling here, but you can feed the little guy Fruit Loops from a large spoon while employees snap photos with your own camera. It’s a fun opportunity to get close to a baby bear for a few moments. Not many people can say they’ve petted a black bear cub!
IF YOU GO:
Oswald’s Bear Ranch
13814 County Road 407
Newberry, Michigan 49868
Phone: (906) 293-3147
Hours: 9:30 am to 5:00 pm. After Labor Day, hours are from 9:30 am – 4:00 pm
Open the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend through Sept. 30th
Admission: $20 per vehicle; apples to feed the bears and photos with cub are extra.